Beyond Fear: A Mother’s Path to Peace, Love, and Gratitude

by Joanne Richards
November 11, 2019

Fear! It shows up as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger—all the emotions that many of us would prefer not to experience—and it’s exhausting. It’s even more exhausting and damaging, though, to not take care of fear and relieve it. But how in the world do we tame the fear when the beast is our own child’s addiction?

At times, I’ve been out of my mind with worry about my son and his health. I’ve grieved the dreams I had for him and our family. I’ve had moments of guilt and shame, anger and devastation. If onlys, whys. When will this change? I need him to heal; I’m afraid of losing him! What if I hadn’t done that, said that? Begging God for miracles. Sound familiar? It’s all from fear, and it keeps us stuck.
There’s a biblical verse that states “the truth will set you free.” First, though, we have to want the real truth, seek it, find it, receive it, then live it. One powerful way I move from fear to peace and love is by seeking more truth with The Work of Byron Katie. The Work is a simple process of questioning any thought that creates stress. As we know, addiction brings a lot of thoughts and stress!
Though The Work is simple in its form—asking four questions and turning a thought around—it’s sometimes not so simple to see beyond fear, to let go of the concepts that seem so real, so right. The invitation when doing The Work is to open the mind and open the heart, to get still, breathe, and notice. You’re not your thoughts; you have the ability to identify them, observe them, question them, see issues from new perspectives, and choose what feels most true for you. For me, the truth is God-inspired. Fear doesn’t live there. Love does.
My son’s substance use disorder has given me many, many stories of fear and all sorts of situations and stress—the same may be true for you. Many of those fearful stories have been significantly weakened, some let go of me entirely, some I still work on, and most likely some are still coming. So, let’s do The Work (aka Inquiry): let’s question a thought.
Go grab a piece of paper and pen so you can follow Inquiry and ask yourself, listen to your own inner wisdom and discover deeper truths that await you beyond fear.  I invite you to find a situation in your own life when you may have believed the thought my child is in too deep (too deep into addiction, into its harm, into its complications, etc.). Just choose one situation, one moment when you believed my child is in too deep. It doesn’t mean you always believe it; it’s just if or when you do, it hurts. So for those times, we can question any thought. Please find your own answers as I write out my own Inquiry as follows.
The situation in which I thought my child is in too deep was during a relapse, while I was speaking with him by phone. When I asked if he was interested in hearing my ideas for some problem solving, he said yes, but he warned me he would never again do inpatient treatment. He rejected all my ideas, including a recovery coach, peer contacts who offered to speak with him, outpatient therapy, and alternative healers. At this moment, I believed he was in too deep to ever choose recovery and heal.


Now ask yourself  the following questions as you read my own example:

  1. Is it true my child is in too deep? This is a yes or no question.

Yes (at the moment I was crushed).


  1. Can you absolutely know it’s true my child is in too deep? This is also a yes or no question.

No, it’s not an absolute (he sometimes went to a landscaping job; he slept on someone’s apartment floor or lived out of a car; he had some form of shelter and was being resourceful under the circumstances; he knows where Twelve Step meetings are and had attended them in the past so he could again; he intended to keep the job until he had enough money to return to California where he thinks he’ll have more success; there are many who have lifted themselves up after losing even more; I can’t know the future, I’m not God).

  1. How do you react; what happens when you believe the thought my child is in too deep?

I’m scared, deflated; I sit down crying with my shoulders hunched, feeling hopeless and exhausted. I see an image of me sad in the future and in the same state of mind and body as I consider his funeral. I have another thought that he is permanently brain damaged, and I am afraid we will lose any possible or rational connection. It is agonizing and painful. I can’t see that some things can change and work in the future—me being one of those things—and that we at least had a phone call with some connection and calm. I treat him as if he is incapable; I treat me as the one who knows how his life should be and what he should do, though I’ve never been given that power. I am in God’s business and determining the path and condition of my son’s very life and death. The payoff of believing the thought my child is in too deep is the belief that it’s preparing me for more challenge to come, or that it will help me surrender and accept. But I see believing my child is in too deep is not necessary to surrender, and future challenges are not things I can prepare for. I can question my fears, but I don’t have to continually attach to the thought to choose to question my fearful thoughts. The cost is a lot of time lost in fear and disconnection from myself, my life, and my son. I am unable to hear him, be present and truly supportive, because I’m too desperate in this thought and want to manipulate the conversation to convince him to change.

  1. Who would you be without the thought my child is in too deep (when he’s declining these options)? For just a moment, consider the same situation, but imagine it without the ability to have this thought or believe that it’s true.

I would know to breathe through the moment, and my body would naturally breathe a bit deeper. I am aware of the easy pull to convince, teach, and fix, and I don’t do that. I am aware that doing so would create separation and conflict. I am becoming more present and staying out of the future. I respect that my son is active in his addiction and currently using drugs, and that this is what he sounds like and how he thinks today (and it can change). I invite God into my heart, looking for gratitude and grace because they are there when I seek them. I follow the small steps to what I need right now. I listen and don’t waste time and my connection with him trying to change him and tick him off. I keep my message really simple and just say that I love him; he is loved. It becomes the most important message I want to convey without need or overloading him. I am very aware of manipulation and blame, and I am careful with my words and responses so I’m not giving him a platform to stay in denial. I am quiet and calm, listening to him to inform me and trying to understand the reality of where he’s at. I thank him for speaking with me. I tell him I believe in him. The call ends, and I know I have done what I can. I did not feed the denial and addiction; I have more peace knowing that. I feel more peace considering I left an opening for him to reach out again, that I am safe for him to do that. I take care of my fears productively, I allow my own emotions, I send him loving energy, and I thank God for all the supports I have and will seek. I am more comfortable not knowing that which I cannot know and doing what I can to connect and communicate well and peacefully.
It’s time to turn the thought around. The turnarounds are an opportunity to explore thoughts and situations from other perspectives and see what could be as true, truer, or not true at all.
My child is not in too deep:
He was not in so deep that he could not call me, thankfully. He has a job and some motivation to just make money and return to California. He has been in deeper many other times, and this time is not as deep as those times. If I don’t contribute to his denial or any in me, the depth of my fear actually decreases, and I’m not contributing to him going deeper into blame and anger. I am dealing with reality and feeling more deliberate and proactive. He is not in deep recovery, but he is alive. He is alive now, and I am grateful to hear his voice. I can take him out of the depths of fear in my own mind and in this way. I can release control and connect to love without my conditions and let love be enough, without playing God for results in my way and my time. He is not in too deep, and God will hold him where he is anytime and anywhere. I can send love to those places, too. When I question my own fears, he is not in too deep when I come into deeper understanding, face reality as it is, and love him as he is without conditions.
I am in too deep for my child:
I can get really deep into his business, and it is not welcomed or appreciated by him. It is not helping, and it is not helpful. I feed the deep dysfunctions, and there are other ways of being and doing. When I get deep into my own stories of past and future, it irritates my fear, and that fear irritates him, even if energetically. If I am deep into an old way of ineffective communicating, it deepens the stress for both of us and between us. He says he wants to do it his way, and it will be his way whether I like it or not. I am deepening my unconditional love for my son. He does not need to change; he does not need to give me anything or make me happy. When in my truest nature, I am into the depth of love, for me and for my son without conditions. I love being in that deep! My son goes with me in my heart, deep in my love. This is how I want to be and what I want to do for him.
I am in too deep for me:
When I dive so deep into his business and into the future that I cannot possibly know, diving into God’s business and playing God, I am in way too deep and creating even more stress. It causes even more confusion. I feel deeper pain if I do not do my own work. I am not in too deep when I deepen my own healing work. I really can’t escape this mind, so I am in deep; the choice is in what direction and depth I choose to go. I deepen my understanding, I deepen the love without conditions, I deepen and go deep into my healing. The deep fears will guide me to the deeper love. Or I will go deeper into suffering.
The Living Turnaround (how to live in action what Inquiry reveals):
I commit to a deep healing journey, to do The Work on my fears and stress, to deepen connection with my heart through truth and understanding and with God. This keeps me connected with my son and to life. Fear shows up, and it can guide the way when I identify it and do not run from it, identify the thoughts, and question them. I acknowledge that I don’t have guarantees about life—never did—but I have some tools that guarantee my way to peace and to love, and for this I am grateful!
How about you?  What ideas presented themselves to you?  The Work will hold all fears.  In each of us, we have divine wisdom that will guide us back to love. When we meet fear with understanding, our love shines through, it grows, and finds new direction into the places and people with whom it can be shared.  Drugs don’t win here. Love does!
Joanne Richards
Certified Family Recovery Coach
Certified Facilitator of The Work

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  1. Thank you for this powerful reminder of how toxic our thoughts can become along with another tool to ease our way out. Fear is often in the driver’s seat when one is dealing with addiction. It is a harmful force and not a rational place. In order to heal we have to untangle ourselves from all fear based reactions. This also reminds me of the Alanon phrase about it is our pain and our job to heal from it.
    This was helpful to me on this Monday morning. Grateful to you and this site. Thank you

    • Thank you Maureen for sharing your insights! Thoughts, when believed, become how we perceive our reality. Doesn’t mean our thoughts are true though, or true at all. As you say, our healing is our own to do. It’s an inside job, and a job that is most important, and a job I have found to be necessary if I am to show up in my life, and for my child from a more rational place. Taking the steering wheel back from fear (love your reference), and grateful! Joanne

  2. Which book would you recommend by Byron Katie for parents of an addited child?

    Thank you.
    Sandra Shatilla

    • Hello Sandra,
      Thanks for your question and interest. I started with Katie’s book, Loving What Is. It explains the process of The Work and how to do and apply it. There is a written inquiry of a mother questioning her thoughts about her daughter’s addiction (soft cover, page 214-226). Doing The Work has profoundly changed the way I think, and how I can care for my thoughts, and my relationships. I’m most happy to offer any support for you to do The Work too. To peace!

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